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Thursday, December 29, 2016

A 2016 Grade Card: How did I do?

In 2016 I set out on a mission to follow this statement: "I want to be a woman who overcomes obstacles by tackling them in faith instead of tiptoeing around them in fear."
I declared that at least once a month, if not more, I would face the following obstacles with faith and not fear. 

So, how did I do? Here's my official grade card.

Cooking. B
I could have done better, but this was a HUGE improvement! Cheers to that! (PS This image is from a great little summer trip with my friend Jen!) 
Watching. B+
My Netflix finally paid for itself in 2016. I found new shows, movies, etc. to check out. I even decided to figure out what I could watch on Hulu and guess what? I found things on Hulu to enjoy! 

Oh, and I actually recommend the Tina Fey movie "Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot." It is NOT a comedy in my opinion (like advertised originally), but that's ok. I just watched it over Christmas Break and loved it. 
Reading. A+
I read more books in 2016 than I have read in the past 6 (or more) years combined. It was a pleasure to rediscover my love for reading. Forcing myself to slow down and enjoy a book has helped me on many levels. I am currently reading a novel by the title of "The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend." My aunt Sarah suggested and loaned it to me. I am normally a non-fiction reader, but this one is interesting. 
Finishing. B-
My health had me "drained" for over half of 2016, so this didn't live up to my "hopes." However, I did finish a mosaic that was juried into an art show (gave myself a little extra credit on that to push my score to a B-). Also, in November and December I got my "omph!" back and finally tackled my laundry room and lower level bathroom that I had been meaning to update all year. Painting, redoing cabinets, new lights, etc. It's been an adventure! Goodbye yellowish brown and hello "moose antler." (Who comes up with some of these paint names?)

Uplifting. C+
Again, because over half of 2016 I was feeling pretty low due to some health issues, I didn't get to reach out to as many people as I had planned. I had the bar set high and I feel I could have done way better. However, when I did reach out to uplift others, I gave it my all. And, I learned that sometimes it's ok to admit you are the one in need of the "uplifting" because you aren't 100%. Below is a photo of one of those moments when I apparently needed some uplift in my life, so my student took charge of the situation. 
Expanding. A-
I have learned about all kinds of new things! I have been able to accomplish more because of the fact I have focused on expanding my knowledge and skill set about a variety of topics. It's ok to be a student at any age! 

Speaking of learning, look at that photo of the fireworks. I finally figured it out and I didn't have to contact my buddy Tyann for help over the summer! 

2017 is what's my next move? 
I have an idea of what all I hope to accomplish in 2017. Some are based upon what I missed out on in 2016 because of being laid up on a couch so much. I'll share that "plan" in time, but for now I do want to thank those of you who enjoy my photography, my ramblings, etc. It means a lot to me. Sometimes I am not sure why I keep up this little blog, but then someone comments on the blog (or to my face) about something I have shared... then I realize that this does matter to some folks out there! 

I am going to leave you with a moment in which I smiled a LOT in 2016. Look at all those sand dollars I found while my daughter danced in the waves!
Have a great New Year!
~ M of MK Designs 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

October Update: "There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir." ~William Bliss

My "mantra" for 2016 is this: 

"I want to become a woman who overcomes obstacles by tackling them in faith instead of tiptoeing around them in fear."

Since May, I have had many moments of "fear." 

I have fears about my health, my career, finances, and more. However, at the end of the day, I am trying my hardest to meet them with faith and the belief that they will only strengthen me; not leave me defeated or broken. 
When I originally decided to focus on facing obstacles in faith, I didn't even think of adding health, finances, or my aging cats to that list. 

Yet, I am still sticking with the original list and plugging right along... 

Cooking. I have been cooking a lot more in 2016 and using my grill more often. I can grill a skirt steak that is out of this world and Karlene says I am mastering "oven-fried taters." Yes, we say "taters" in this house! I have also gotten better at preparing scallops and other foods that I typically only trust a "professional" to cook!
Watching. My latest veg out on the couch guilty pleasure is "Lakefront Bargain Hunt." I am impressed by not only the beauty of the homes, but by the fact they are more expensive than the one I live in. These are on the "bargain" list?!

A movie that I watched a few weeks ago that moved me deeply is "Unconditional." You can find it on Netflix. It is based on a true story and has a powerful message. Check it out! 
Reading. I cannot get over how many books I have read so far this year! If you visit this LINK, you'll learn more about some of them, as well as my mission to read more in 2016. 

Below are photos of all the books I have checked out since I have last updated this blog. 

NOTE: Two of them, Libby & Dying Out Loud, were highly recommended by my Grandma. 9 out of 10 times when she recommends a book, I end up loving it!

Finishing. Karlene and I figured that it was time to get back to work on our stepping stone project and we tackled that with beautiful results. We were able to add three more stepping stones to our outdoor collection. 
I also finally finished the mosaic I started YEARS ago. It's all Soulard Mardi Gras beads. It's only fitting that the final product was juried into a show at Soulard Art Gallery this past month! Below, you can see details of it in the lower right hand area of the photo collage. It's 16X20 and available for sale. Contact me if you are interested. 
Uplifting. I have received a lot of positive feedback about the Journalism Summit that I was able to help bring to Franklin County. Learn more HERE. I felt incredibly blessed to be a blessing to others that day. 

On another note, I love the bracelet I wore that day. My friend Jen is a KEEP designer and I love their jewelry with an uplifting message! 
Karlene and I also just finished our two Operation Christmas Child boxes. Additionally, we are both excited that our Compassion International Child, Beatrice, has been sending us letters! It's amazing to learn more about her life and how God is working in her life. 

Expanding. I have to admit that in this area, I am drowning in learning about women's health issues and how to deal with insurance companies. I am going to leave it at that. It wasn't on my list of new things to learn about, but "it is what it is" indeed! 

Last but not least, I want to brag about my child. 

She recently won First Place (again) in the annual Fire Safety Week poster contest in Washington, Missouri. 

Her poster goes on to the state contest this spring. 

If you can...  I want to toss this out there as a challenge for you today and every day.

Until next time,  
M of MK Designs 
October 2016

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Fall Can Start... Anytime!

You may say Global Warming isn't real, but I don't think the first day of Fall temps should be in the 90's. 

I am ready for crisp air, colorful leaves, beautiful drives, and bonfires! 

The forecast calls for cooler temps soon, to which I say:
Last Sunday, it was in the 80's (muggy), but I had to get out. 

I loaded up Karlene, my camera, and hit the road for Robertsville State Park. I cannot stress how important it is to get out and explore the natural world. I am blessed to live in a state that values parks and public lands. 

Oh, and the light was beautiful. 

Enjoy these images:

Do you have a favorite? Feel free to comment on this blog post or on my facebook page. I love feedback!

Anxiously Awaiting Fall, 
~ MT of MK Designs 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

What is Wealth?

First year of college. To this day, I am thankful my mom made this financially possible.
In 42 1/2 years I have ran the full range of financial situations. 
I have...
  • gone from having close to three figures in a bank account to being wiped out with the snap of my fingers. 
  • lived paycheck to paycheck.
  • had savings for rainy days that never seemed to end. 
  • managed to live credit card debt free until I went a little "spend happy" on home improvements and quickly learned how challenging that can be to actually pay off. 
  • known to never EVER touch my retirement fund. Yes, I have a retirement fund.
  • paid with cash to save money. 
  • bartered services to save money.
  • been jealous of those who have more.
  • felt ashamed for taking for granted how well I live.
  • been told, "we can't afford that" and hated it.
  • have said, "we can't afford that" and understood why self-control matters.
However, I have never been poor.
Felt very "rich" on this trip to Illinois!
I've been accused of being poor by a man who claimed to love me. Perhaps for a time I even believed it. Yet, I recognize now how much of a lie that really is. 

I'd rather keep my childhood spent in a two bedroom mobile home in the woods without fancy dinners and the latest gadgets, than trade it for one in a stick-built house in a subdivision. 
Visiting Paddy Creek in 2012. One of the places my parents took me as a child. Free and fun!

Connection to nature. 
Connection to self. 
Appreciation for the little things. 
My daughter and I love our free and fun creeks, too!
What makes a person "rich" in America? I think so many of us have the wrong answer. It's not the square footage of your house, it's the joy you find in living. It's not having the latest iPhone, it's having someone on the other end you actually want to speak to...or better yet, WANTS TO SPEAK TO YOU!
Hiking with my mom at a state park. 
If you have clean water, a warm bed, food on your plate, and people who love you... are rich beyond measure. 

You are far from poor. You are rich in my eyes. 

Until next time, 
M of MK Designs

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Inspiration and a Clean Camera: an Afternoon Spent on MDC lands and Country Roads is NEVER a Waste of Time!

I have lacked inspiration to do much with photography lately. 

Yes, I have still been shooting and writing articles and entering shows, but I've had to drag myself through the process. 

This afternoon felt different. 

The air felt lighter, the sky was blue... around 2:30pm I was (dare I say) PERKY.
My daughter is the one who suggested the drive to MDC lands. I grabbed my recently-cleaned camera (thanks to Creve Coeur Camera) and decided it was time to give it a test run. 

The weather was perfect and my heart felt pretty light once we were on the road. 

We made our way 14 miles south of our home in Union, MO to Chouteau Claim Access. It is where the Bourbeuse River and the Meramec River meet. Karlene and I saw many people out enjoying the day, but it was the scenery that stole the show. 

After we finished exploring, we decided to drive 5 more miles to River 'Round Conservation Area. This is a unique area on the Meramec when viewed on a map. Its name makes perfect sense. 

We explored some areas near the river. I was still inspired to shoot. These are a few of my favorites from that spot:

As we were driving out of the area, we saw an old road that is now a foot trail that we want to go explore at a later date (preferably not during deer season). 

Overall, the afternoon was an enjoyable one. We had dinner in Union and even stopped by the Union Access on our way home. It was a quick stop and our third MDC land of the afternoon. I left my camera behind for that moment and instantly saw some sights that made me regret not having it. 

Creative slumps, feeling down in the dumps, and overall just unmotivated is NOT a fun way to be. I am thankful for this afternoon's burst of inspiration and energy. It has me thinking of one of my favorite verses:
Until next time,
M of MK Designs

PS My website has had an overhaul! You should go check it out:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Thoughts on a Windowless Life

I am convinced that a "windowless life" is no way to live. Yet, I do it every school year. 

Last night, I needed a break from the lack of scenery. I went to Reiker Ford Access near my home to have a moment of water, green, and sky. 
My silence was interrupted by a man who pulled up in his truck. I watched as he surveyed the river. It was a little too high to cross and he decided to turn around. 

Before he left, he and I had a pretty short, yet insightful exchange of words. 

The conversation we had went a little like this:

"You waiting on a floater?" - he. 

"No, I work in a windowless room all day and sometimes I need 30 to 40 minutes to just NOT..." - me.

"Oh, Wow! I hear ya, no windows all day would make me wanna just stand here and NOT, often!" - he. 

And, with a chuckle and a wave, he drove away. 

I find it interesting that someone who doesn't know me at all can instantly "get" me and my situation. 
Windows are something many of us take for granted. When we find ourselves in a situation where we spend 8+ hours a day without them, we understand their true value.

Once I am back at work and living my windowless life, I go for walks and drives much more. I ache for it. 

I am sure I am not alone in my windowless life. 

~M of MK Designs August 2016 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

July Update: "The summer night is like a perfection of thought." ~Wallace Stevens

As I stated back in January, my "mantra" for 2016 is this: 

"I want to become a woman who overcomes obstacles by tackling them in faith instead of tiptoeing around them in fear."

My goal is to face the following obstacles with faith and not fear as often as possible:

Cooking. I am, in many ways, getting better at creating meals for myself and my family instead of depending upon restaurants, but as I travel in the summer that drive-thru is so tempting! Hopefully, I can get back on track. 

Watching. Mom and I are still enjoying "Grace and Frankie" on Netflix. It's so good! We have two more episodes to watch of the current season and then it's the waiting game. I have also been sharing more of my favorite "kid/teen" movies with Karlene this summer now that she is older. She enjoyed "The Sandlot" quite a bit! 

Reading. I have faithfully committed myself to reading more this year and it is paying off. I finished the following books over the past few weeks! (Granted, one is mainly photographs, but it was still nice!)

Finishing. Karlene and I finally finished cleaning, sorting, purging, re-arranging, and more in her room. I even painted her table for her reading/iPad nook and the pretty "K" letter I have had sitting in my garage for over a year now. It's interesting to see her room evolve into more of a place for a "pre-teen" than a small child. Now, the bad news... she needs a new ceiling fan! The other one is kaput! 
Uplifting. I admit that in 2015 several of my goals were directed towards myself. In 2016, I've planned to faithfully take the time to uplift others on a regular basis. Here are two examples that are coming up fast. I have somehow worked myself into helping with Youth Group at my church, and assisting in the planning and hosting of a Journalism Summit here in Franklin County. 

PS Need a flyer designed? I think I am getting better at it! 

I have also been working hard at thanking those who go out of their way for me. I did so recently in a blog post for BJJTV and was so excited about the results. Give love, get love. It's so true. 

Here's the link to my blog post/open letter: 

Expanding. I have been a teacher for a long time, but I know there's areas I have to improve upon. Networking is one such area. As seen above, I reached out to network with a local college professor after reading about the importance of networking in education. 

I also decided to reach out to a local group "Buddies Not Bullies" to help them develop a Video PSA Contest for this fall. Not only will it help spread the word about their organization, but it will help spread the word about bullying. This is another topic I have expanded my knowledge about. 
Networking is a little new to me. Working over a meal with someone over a project that will benefit kids is pretty exciting. It's very unlike my rushed lunch period at school. I am happy I am more open to networking with other people than ever. 

Now, let's look at some recent happenings in my life... I have work in the current Soulard Art Gallery show "Wide Open." I hope you get a chance to go see it: 
I was able to enjoy one day in a pool with my friends Charles, Krista, and their baby Grace. Oh, and this rather loud frog:
I have connected with the River Hills Traveler (see link: RIVER HILLS TRAVELER) and had an article published. I am so excited. It's on actual PAPER: 
I love how this photo collage blanket came out. My cousin and I had it made for my Grandma's birthday. She's not a fan of hanging things on her walls, so we thought it was the perfect gift. Then, she surprised us and had it hung on her wall. Ha! Gotta love it:
On a very recent trip to Florida, my daughter and I had a great time with a cat that decided he liked us. We named the kitty "Howie" and it really added a fun layer to the adventure:

I loved seeing how a client used her engagement photos. What beautiful centerpieces for her bridal shower! I am excited for Kate and Wally's big day. Even though I am not a wedding photographer, I do love engagement sessions:
Until next time, I am going to leave you with some images from Florida taken over the first week of July 2016:

~ Michelle of MK Designs